They say time flies when you’re having fun. That’s certainly true in my case.
Around this time 50 years ago, I started refereeing. It was the start of the 1970/71 season when I took up the whistle and embarked on a career that saw action both here in Ireland and in South Africa.
I’d often wondered why anyone would take up coaching or managing a team. I now fully understand.
When I retired after 25 years of activity on the field of play, I took on the role of coach and mentor to a select group of middlemen who asked for my advice and support.
With some trepidation, I accepted the challenge and so continued my involvement with a part of the game that’s given me great satisfaction and pleasure.
In between, of course, I was also head of referees for the PSL under the stewardship of Trevor Phillips, a role I greatly enjoyed.
This gave me even more opportunities to really get my teeth into something I wanted to pursue – the training, development and mentoring of match officials.
As a former teacher, there’s no more satisfying feeling than witnessing your students progressing up the ladder to a point where they become better than you. I had felt tremendous gratification when I saw one of my students go all the way to a World Cup final.
At the same World Cup in 1998 in Paris, France, South Africa had three match officials: the late Ian McLeod (referee), and Ari Soldatos and Achmet Salie (assistant referees).
It was the first time, to my knowledge, that a team of three had been selected from any country. Salie went on to run the line in the final between France and Brazil, thanks to his quality and ability.
I’m proud to have been associated with their mentoring and development.
Subsequent to that, we had two more excellent officials from South Africa: referee Jerome Damon and assistant referee Enock Molefe. They went on to be selected for two World Cups; the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China; three Fifa Under-17 World Cups; and four Afcon finals.
The longevity of their tenure at the top is testament to the hard work and dedication they put in, and the manner and attitude they displayed while representing their country.
I have to admit that I’m still as dedicated and committed to match officiating as I was all those years ago. I’ve been asked many times why I’m still doing it, rather than retiring and enjoying myself. Well, I am enjoying myself.
There’s nothing better than seeing progress in whatever one does and, for me, it’s the satisfaction of seeing young, up-and-coming referees and assistant referees developing and doing well at both local and international level.
Refereeing has changed drastically over the years and the demands on the men and women in the middle, as well as on the line, seem to increase with every season. They have to be fitter and always up to date with the latest changes to the Fifa laws of the game and their interpretations.
Some of those changes are so complex that it’s difficult even for those in the know to work them out, so what chance does the ordinary spectator have of doing so?
For those who may be wondering, I have no intention of retiring from what I’m doing and will continue giving advice and help to anyone who contacts me.
I guess I’m in the “market” for the next batch to come along.
As long as the conveyor belt of referees and assistant referees keeps running, I’ll be there.
Stay safe, stay well and keep your distance during this pandemic. Please feel free to comment or ask questions.
Follow me on Twitter @dr_errol or firstname.lastname@example.org